Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 17 June 2014

Four short links: 17 June 2014

Decentralised Consensus, Disruption Critiqued, Digital Reputation, and Stuff That Matters

  1. Erisa platform which allows developers and users to deploy consensus driven applications which rely on decentralized architecture and a consensus driven blockchain database backend. Open source (modified MIT).
  2. The Disruption Machine (New Yorker) — long detailed critique of the “disruption” hypothesis of Clayton Christensen, particularly questioning the case studies cited in The Innovator’s Dilemma.
  3. Web Reputation Systems and the Real World (Randy Farmer) — Don’t cross the streams. Good digital reputations should always be context-limited: the nature of the inputs should constrain the use of the reputation scores that are output.
  4. Bill and Melinda Gates Commencement Speech (Quartz) — excellent urging to work on stuff that matters. The pessimists are wrong in my view, but they’re not crazy. If innovation is purely market- driven and we don’t focus it on the big inequities, then we could have amazing advances and inventions that leave the world even more divided.
Comments: 3
Four short links: 16 June 2014

Four short links: 16 June 2014

Decision Trees, Decision Modifications, Mobile Patents, Web Client

  1. Quick DT — open source (Java) decision tree learner.
  2. Revealing Hidden Changes to Supreme Court OpinionsWHEREAS, It is now well-documented that the Supreme Court of the United States makes changes to its opinions after the opinion is published; and WHEREAS, Only “Four legal publishers are granted access to “change pages” that show all revisions. Those documents are not made public, and the court refused to provide copies to The New York Times”; and WHEREAS, git makes it easy to identify when changes have been made; RESOLVED, I shall apply a cron job to at least identify when the actual PDF has changed so everyone can see which documents have changed.
  3. Microsoft’s “Killer” Android Patents Revealed (Ars Technica) — Chinese Government required them disclosed as part of MSFT-Nokia merger. The patent lists are strategically significant, because Microsoft has managed to build a huge patent-licensing business by taxing Android phones without revealing what kind of legal leverage they really have over those phones.
  4. HTTPiea command line HTTP client, a user-friendly HTTP client.
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Four short links: 13 June 2014

Four short links: 13 June 2014

Decentralized Web, Reproducibility Talk, Javascript Microcontroller, and Docker Maturity

  1. Mapping the Decentralized Movement (Jon Udell) — the pendulum is about to swing back toward a more distributed Web.
  2. John Ioannidis: Reproducible Research, True or False? (YouTube) — his talk at Google. (via Paul Kedrosky)
  3. Tessel — a microcontroller that runs Javascript. For those who can’t handle C.</troll>
  4. Docker MisconceptionsThis is not impossible and can all be done – several large companies are already using Docker in production, but it’s definitely non-trivial. This will change as the ecosystem around Docker matures (via Flynn, Docker container hosting, etc), but currently if you’re going to attempt using Docker seriously in production, you need to be pretty skilled at systems management and orchestration.
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Four short links: 12 June 2014

Four short links: 12 June 2014

Our New Robot Overlords, Open Neuro, Anti-Surveillance Software, and LG's TV Made of Evil and Tears

  1. Norbert Weiner (The Atlantic) — His fears for the future stemmed from two fundamental convictions: We humans can’t resist selfishly misusing the powers our machines give us, to the detriment of our fellow humans and the planet; and there’s a good chance we couldn’t control our machines even if we wanted to, because they already move too fast and because increasingly we’re building them to make decisions on their own. To believe otherwise, Wiener repeatedly warned, represents a dangerous, potentially fatal, lack of humility.
  2. Open Ephys — open source/open hardware tools for neuro research. (via IEEE)
  3. Startups Selling Resistance to Surveillance (Inc) — growing breed of tools working on securing their customers’ communications from interception by competitors and states.
  4. Not-So-Smart TV (TechDirt) — LG’s privacy policy basically says “let us share your viewing habits, browsing, etc. with third parties, or we will turn off the `smart’ features in your smart TV.” The promise of smart devices should be that they get better for customers over time, not better for the vendor at the expense of the customer. See Weiner above.
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Four short links: 11 June 2014

Four short links: 11 June 2014

Right to Mine, Summarising Microblogs, C Sucks for Stats, and Scanning Logfiles

  1. UK Copyright Law Permits Researchers to Data Mine — changes mean Copyright holders can require researchers to pay to access their content but cannot then restrict text or data mining for non-commercial purposes thereafter, under the new rules. However, researchers that use the text or data they have mined for anything other than a non-commercial purpose will be said to have infringed copyright, unless the activity has the consent of rights holders. In addition, the sale of the text or data mined by researchers is prohibited. The derivative works will be very interesting: if university mines the journals, finds new possibility for a Thing, is verified experimentally, is that Thing the university’s to license commercially for profit?
  2. Efficient Online Summary of Microblogging Streams (PDF) — research paper. The algorithm we propose uses a word graph, along with optimization techniques such as decaying windows and pruning. It outperforms the baseline in terms of summary quality, as well as time and memory efficiency.
  3. Statistical Shortcomings in Standard Math Libraries — or “Why C Derivatives Are Not Popular With Statistical Scientists”. The following mathematical functions are necessary for implementing any rudimentary statistics application; and yet they are general enough to have many applications beyond statistics. I hereby propose adding them to the standard C math library and to the libraries which inherit from it. For purposes of future discussion, I will refer to these functions as the Elusive Eight.
  4. fail2ban — open source tool that scans logfiles for signs of malice, and triggers actions (e.g., iptables updates).
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Four short links: 10 June 2014

Four short links: 10 June 2014

Trusting Code, Deep Pi, Docker DevOps, and Secure Database

  1. Trusting Browser Code (Tim Bray) — on the fundamental weakness of the ‘net as manifest in the browser.
  2. Deep Learning in the Raspberry Pi (Pete Warden) — $30 now gets you a computer you can run deep learning algorithms on. Awesome.
  3. Announcing Docker Hub and Official Repositories — as Docker went 1.0 and people rave about how they use it, comes this. They’re thinking hard about “integrating into the build ship run loop”, which aligns well with DevOps-enabling tool use.
  4. Apple’s Secure Database for Users (Ian Waring) — excellent breakdown of how Apple have gone out of their way to make their cloud database product safe and robust. They may be slow to “the cloud” but they have decades of experience having users as customers instead of products.
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Four short links: 9 June 2014

Four short links: 9 June 2014

SQL against Text, Fake Social Networks, Hidden Biases, and Versioned Data

  1. textqlexecute SQL against structured text like CSV or TSV.
  2. Social Network Structure of Fake Friends — author bought 4,000 Twitter followers and studied their relationships.
  3. Hidden Biases in Big Datawith every big data set, we need to ask which people are excluded. Which places are less visible? What happens if you live in the shadow of big data sets? (via Quinn Norton)
  4. CoreObjecta version-controlled object database for Objective-C that supports powerful undo, semantic merging, and real-time collaborative editing.
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Four short links: 6 June 2014

Four short links: 6 June 2014

Ethical UX, Personal Robots, Sharter URLs, and Magical Devices

  1. Ethics and UX Design (Slideshare) –We are the thieves of time. This excellent talk challenges you (via Aristotle) to understand what a good life is, and whether you’re designing to bring it about. (via Keith Bolland)
  2. Pepper Personal Robot — Japan’s lead in consumer-facing robotics is impressive. If this had been developed by an American company, it’d either have a Lua scripting interface or twin machine guns for autonomous death.
  3. shrturl — spoof, edit, rewrite, and general evil up webpages, hidden behind an URL shortening service.
  4. Lessons for Building Magical Devices (First Round Review) — The most interesting devices I’ve seen take elements of the physical world and expose them to software.[...] If you buy a Tesla Model S today, the behavior of the car six months from now could be radically different because software can reshape the capability of the hardware continuously, exceeding the speed of customer demand.
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Four short links: 5 June 2014

Four short links: 5 June 2014

Open Autopilot, Record Robot Sales, NSA Myths Busted, and Informative Errors

  1. beaglepilot (Github) — open source open hardware autopilot for Beagleboard. (via DIY Drones)
  2. IFR Robot Sales Charts (PDF) — 2013: all-time high of 179,000 industrial robots sold and growth continues in 2014. (via Robohub)
  3. The Top 5 Claims That Defenders of the NSA Have to Stop Making to Remain Credible (EFF) — great Mythbusting.
  4. Netflix’s New Error Message — instead of “buffering”, they point the finger at the carrier between them and the customer who is to blame for slow performance. Genius!
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Four short links: 4 June 2014

Four short links: 4 June 2014

Swift on GitHub, HTTP APIs, PGP in Gmail, and Comments vs Community

  1. Swift on GitHub — watch a thousand projects launch.
  2. HTTP API Design Guideextracted from work on the Heroku Platform API.
  3. End-to-End PGP in Gmail — Google releases an open source Chrome extension to enable end-to-end OpenPGP on top of gmail. This is a good thing. As noted FSF developer Ben Franklin wrote: Those who would give up awkward key signing parties to purchase temporary convenience deserve neither.
  4. Close Your Comments; Build Your Community (Annemarie Dooling) — I am rarely sad when a commenting platform collapses, because it usually means the community dissolved long before.
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